Fortune telling in Korea, as well as some other kinds of divination, has been popular since ancient times. Korean shamen are an integral part of traditional culture and many still believe in their abilities to predict the future. Let’s dive into the mystical side of Korea!
Fortune telling in Korea is usually performed by shamen. They are people with supernatural powers that allow them to communicate with nature, local gods, and the deceased. Korean Shamen are called Mudang, and if you would like to learn more about them, Click Here.
One of the most common types of fortune-telling Mudang perform is face reading (관상). Many believe that Mudang can see people’s fates just by looking at their faces. Certain features, dots, lines, and patterns of hair growth reveal your past, present, and future.
With this type of fortune-telling, a mudang observes 100 points on the face. Each point has multiple feature possibilities that indicate aspects of the person’s fate. Some of my personal favorites that are regularly referenced in pop culture are the “scam artist mustache” and the “idiot mole”.
Another extremely common form of divination in South Korea is numerology. This is particularly favored by Korean mothers. It is not uncommon for Korean mothers to go to a psychic when scheduling important dates or choosing their children’s names.
According to traditional beliefs, everything can be assigned a number that has a corresponding element. In order for things to go well in a marriage or a child’s life, the elements should be as balanced as possible. In fact, if you want to try something more traditional when choosing your Korean name you can go to a fortune-teller. If you know the approximate time and location of your birth, they can pick the perfect name for you based on numerology.
I had my own experience with fortune telling in Korea. It was a few months before my wedding to my Korean husband. My father-in-law suddenly called me to ask about my exact birthday down to the minute. Later, I found out he was going to ask a very famous numerologist to ask them about our marriage and the best date for it.
I found it fascinating. It was both fun and interesting at the same time. And honestly, it calmed my nerves. Whether or not you believe in it, I felt like it added an extra element of good luck to the beginning of our marriage. We have had a successful marriage this far, maybe it is down to the numbers.
There are lots of different kinds of fortune telling in Korea. As stated above, there are more traditional forms such as face reading and numerology. However, there is also divination based on western practices such as tarot cards and palm reading.
Either way, you can find them everywhere. There are booths along the sides of the road, there are cafes, and there are even whole buildings dedicated to fortune telling. The easiest way to find them is to look for the words 타로 (Tarot) or 사주 (fortune).
Like most things in Korea, fortune tellers go all out. People don’t just go there to get their fortune read, they go for the entire experience of it.
Once inside you will see mystical paintings and objects everywhere. Chances are, it will be dark with a few candles and incense burning while meditation music plays. Most fortune-tellers also dress up, they look like they are about to put a spell on you (or attend a Halloween party) but I guess that is part of the fun. Many also have the stereotypical crystal ball. However, I’ve never seen any of them actually use it.
For traditional fortune tellers, they go all out as well. Normally, they will have shrines, traditional decorations and props, and of course, wear a traditional outfit as well.
Overall, it is a bit silly but it is also fun, so I don’t mind it.
Depending on how fancy the shop is and where it is located, it can be as little as 5,000 to as much as 50,000. However, for a nationally renowned Korean shaman to do a reading, it can cost hundreds of thousands or even millions of won. But, those services are normally reserved for celebrities and the ultra-wealthy.
A standard reading at your local shop will normally consist of three questions and one general reading. If you want more specialized services such as a Korean name or important dates, it would probably cost a bit more.
What I find suspicious is that places tend to charge people depending on how much of their future they want to know. As a Tarot Reader myself, I believe that is not exactly how it works with the cards. Generally, you can’t control how much information you get or how far into the future the information will be.
Also, ethically, I really don’t think you should charge based on that. So I personally recommend you avoid those kinds of shops. That’s a big red flag if you are looking for a genuine reading.
To be honest, even if I do believe in the Tarot cards have divination powers. I believe most of the shops in tourist areas are just for entertainment. However, they are still fun and make for a fun group activity for when you are hanging out with friends or a significant other. In places where foreigners like to go such as Hongdae, Myeongdong, and Gangnam most fortune-tellers speak basic English.
If you are looking for genuine divination, it is probably best to avoid western forms such as tarot and palm reading. Madangs who practice more traditional forms such as face reading and numerology would generally be more reliable. However, they would be more expensive and it might be difficult to find someone who speaks English
Remember that if you seek fortune telling in Korea, just have fun with it. They ultimately exist for entertainment and to give you advice. We are the owners of our own destiny and our actions can always change our course in life.
In my personal experience Tarot cards are sometimes surprisingly accurate. But, at other times they can be a big disappointment. I perceive that most Tarot Readers do it more to bring joy and fun than to seriously dig into the future. And that is totally fine!
If you are fascinated with the mystic arts, Click Here to read about where you can find Wiccan supplies in Korea.